Lady Liberty has gotten herself into a huge mess. She has been in problematic relationships before, but nothing like this. Donald Trump has been so blatantly abusive to her that it has become almost impossible not to see it. As a psychologist working with trauma, I have seen this kind of relationship too many times to ignore it.
As a suitor, Mr. Trump began his pursuit with typical sociopathic trickery, with lies and deception. Many women have been taken in by this kind of performance and so were many Americans. His early presentation is as someone who just wants the best for her, but that is all smoke and mirrors. What he wants is the best for himself and, in this case, it means an endless craving for money, fame and adulation. It is no problem if he acquires these ill-gotten gains at her expense and so he soon proceeds to gas lighting, to more and more blatant lying and deception. He deals in bullying and humiliation of the most immature schoolyard variety.
The domestic abuser tries to isolate the domestic victim, just as Mr. Trump has done, declaring that the United States is pulling out of treaties and agreements with our former friends and will instead only befriend his own circle of rogues and dictators, including Putin, the Saudis and the Koreans.
His changes of mood are startling and the visual of him hugging the American flag frightening in its desperation and childishness. In this case, we are talking about the abuse of millions of citizens. Some astute observers always saw what he was, and others have awakened with experience. Yet many still forgive him and can not leave him because they believe that they still love him, even with all his faults, and that his abuse are signs of how much he loves us. I have seen it in a smaller size more times than I care to count.
As I discussed in my book, Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women’s Experience, most domestic abusers are immature psychologically and have never grown up, but have grown into adult men’s strong and potentially dangerous bodies. They are also expert in turning reality upside down in order to blame their partners. It is never ‘my fault’. The aim is to have the victim believe only what the abuser tells her and to doubt her own perceptions. It is not as difficult to accomplish this when the victim is looking for love or for sharing in the ill-gotten gains of the effective ‘con’.
No one expected this kind of relationship for Lady Liberty. She has always been so strong and seemingly independent, able to stand up to all kinds of violence and subterfuge. She has welcomed immigrants from all over the world. She has been far from perfect in dealing with women, LGBT people, the disabled and people of color. She has been an ambivalent refuge for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. However, this ambivalence has been turned to indifference and even hatred by one man. How did this happen?
In this case, many women and some men, supported by feminism and consciousness-raising of their own or prior generations, have been able to maintain clarity of vision and mind, ‘staying woke’, the contemporary version of the consciousness raising of the 1970’s. Some were not duped by him at all. These types of abusers do not affect everyone equally. There are those who are healthy and clear sighted enough to see through this kind of courtship.
Yet this is not a struggle with an obvious ending. Endings of these relationships are often ambiguous, drawn out and filled with pain and suffering. This divorce has certainly taken longer than it should have. Yet now women are fighting back. Lady Liberty is resisting Mister Trump’s sexual and physical abuse. No one is grabbing her (albeit non-existent) genitals with impunity.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, the Me Too! Movement has gone global. It is being led by women, formerly and currently abused. We are all experience Traumatic Stress Disorder and there is nothing Post about it. We must persevere. We seek justice, as do all survivors, and justice in this case requires acknowledgement of wrongdoing by investigatory bodies; it requires a clear and final divorce and appropriate consequences. Time is up!